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Treasures of the Archives: Bird’s Eye Maps

Bird's-eye view of the city of Olympia, Record Series, Map Records, General Map Collection, 1851-2005, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

Bird's-eye view of the city of Olympia, Record Series, Map Records, General Map Collection, 1851-2005, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

Bird’s-eye maps of growing western towns were very popular in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. They offer an interesting perspective on the evolving landscape of the American West. They were not always accurate however. The artist would sometimes include interpretations of planned future developments in the map. This makes them a somewhat troublesome and untrustworthy source for those doing serious historical research. Those issues aside, they are a valuable and often aesthetically pleasing addition to any map collection. They offer a unique look into how the citizens of these cities and towns saw themselves and their future.

Treasures of the Archives: The Pioneer Square Totem Pole

Totem pole, Pioneer Place, Seattle, Photographs, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990 Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

Totem pole, Pioneer Place, Seattle, Photographs, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990 Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

In the summer of 1899 a group of businessmen boarded the steamship City of Seattle for what was to be a sight-seeing and “good-will tour” sponsored by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The party went ashore near a Tlingit village. Finding hundreds of totem poles, they selected what they considered to be the best, and started cutting it down with axes as they would a tree. One of the men, James Clise, claimed that the “two decrepit Indians” present at the site of the totem “made no objection to our taking the pole to Seattle.” The totem the men stole that day was a memorial pole, which was made in honor of a female elder named Chief-of-all-Women after her death in 1870.

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